Two men, separated not only by race but also distance, come to share similar experiences in the classic novel “Cry, the Beloved Country”. The scene is South Africa and author Alan Paton depicts a story of its constant internal struggle between the whites and the blacks. Paton brings to light, not the difference between the races, but attempts to show equality among them. “The reader soon realizes it matters not a tinker’s dam what the color of their respective skins is.”(Schmitt 279). Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu priest, and James Jarvis, a wealthy plantation owner, are brought together by tragedy and exhibit similar traits and actions under the stress. This is done to easily draw distinction that the ethnic groups are very much the same and that they need to work together to save the country in which they live.
The novels action begins with Stephen Kumalo, also referred to as umfundisi and his quest to find his lost family members. As he locates each one of them, he is stricken hard by what they have become. His sister, a prostitute, his son Absolom, an unwed father to be and future murderer, and his brother John, a corrupt politician, all strip away his innocence and test his morals. Stephen begins doubting himself as a father and a person. Not unlike Kumalo, James Jarvis is equally shaken emotionally. This comes as a death in the family, his son Arthur. More than the actual death itself, the writings of his son give insight about him and show a side James never knew Arthur had. Arthur states that his dad had not taught him anything. These are hard words for James to read, and like Kumalo, he also begins to doubt himself as a father.
Later in the book Kumalo arrives a James Jarvis’s house. He goes to find where Sibeko is. When Jarvis answers the door, he senses in Kumalo that something very sad has happened to him. He treats the suffering native with kindness and courtesy, something he wouldn’t have bothered to do earlier, much like Kumalo treats the little girl in the first chapter. Stephen tells him that Absolom murdered his son, and Jarvis, quite shaken at the revelation, forgives Kumalo. Jarvis can now be seen influenced by his son and is beginning to overcome his prejudices toward the natives. The two men almost have sense of friendship and understanding despite the circumstances. They realize that they are on the same side, and that no good could come out of hostility between them.
So far Jarvis has viewed the natives only as commodities.